The GDW email inbox for music submissions still shows no sign of slowing down, and has been at the ‘critically overflowing’ stage for these last few weeks. It is hard to believe that we are still stuck in this pandemic nightmare when talented artists from every corner of Canada are creating and sharing some phenomenal new music. There is so much new music that we could easily focus solely on releases from one province alone with this feature – which triggered a lightbulb – a Snappy Singles article devoted to a randomly selected province based on submissions alone. Alberta – you are the lucky lottery pick here, and believe me, the province has some outstanding representatives for your enjoyment today.
The Hello Darlins, “Prayer For A Sparrow”
We start our Alberta Snappy Singles feature with a visit to Calgary, checking in with emerging Roots-Americana band, The Hello Darlins, who recently dropped another single in anticipation of their upcoming debut album, “Go By Feel,” officially out on June 11th. Founded by Candace Lacina and Mike Little, and accompanied as always by who-knows-how-many incredible studio-session players, “Prayer For A Sparrow” finds the band drawing upon strong country, gospel, and blues influences to deliver a stunning ballad wrapped meticulously in a generous portion of deeply-moving pedal steel. “Women are disproportionately affected by poverty, violence and exploitation and the sparrow represents a kind of vulnerability,” shares Mike. “But it’s also a symbol of protection, resilience and empowerment.” “I believe humanity is becoming more understanding and compassionate,” Candace adds. “We’re experiencing a new beginning, and a renewed hope. Dolly Parton is an inspiration to me, and was for the creation of this song. The sparrow is the ultimate sign of a changing season and it feels like a good time for change.”
Steph Irene, “Make It Up To You”
As we cruise up Highway 2 (AB 2) from Cow Town to Edmonton, we hook up with country singer-songwriter Steph Irene, who shares her debut single as a solo artist, although many of our Alberta readers may already be familiar with Steph as a founding member of the bilingual alt-country project, Post Script. Undeniably stylistic and authentic in her recalling of classic country music, Steph steps away from her usual identity to pay homage to the stories and agony of traditional country music: “Do I stay, do I stay or do I go / The life we built is now in shambles / No, I’m not perfect, but I tried to be for you / You can’t change a person, unless you beg them to.” Co-produced with Scott Franchuk at Riverdale Recorders in their home city, and mastered by Philip Shaw Bova in Ottawa, Steph straddles a fine line between traditional country and modern-day Americana, creating a harmonious balance between toe-tapping and hard-thinking. Joined by her husband Paul Cournoyer (bass), and Ryan Funk (guitars/pedal steel), the trio call upon Altameda’s Matthew Kraus (organ/piano) and Erik Grice (drums) to add their touches to this impressive solo debut.
Danielle Dayton, “Home To You”
While there’s nothing officially written in the Snappy Singles handbook that an amazing piano-ballad is mandatory, those of you that know me, know that I’m a sucker for this musical escapade. Hey, nothing beats a true, tried, and tested ode from the seat of a piano. Edmonton, AB alt-indie artist Danielle Dayton released “Home To You” late last month, her first single for 2021, and itself a beautifully epic and heart-wrenching ballad that reflects on her own personal experiences through the midst of Covid-19. Mixed and mastered remotely by Brad Smith (Scenic Route to Alaska) at Velveteen Audio in Edmonton, this composition checks every prerequisite on the piano-ballad scorecard, with extra points awarded for Danielle’s carefully crafted lyrics: “I just turn on the TV to escape the reality you’re not with me / And some days are easy, I can pick up the pieces / Till they scatter on the floor.” “We’ve all experienced a deep level of loss this past year [and] I have so many questions about the future,” Danielle offers. “I’m trying my absolute hardest to silence the part of my mind that has told me I am not doing enough. There is no correct way to feel about all of this, and I am trying to go easier on myself.”
AV, “Everybody Matters”
We’re not quite ready to head out of Edmonton just yet, at least not until we’ve shared with you this latest single from singer-songwriter AV (Ann Vriend). Drawing upon the emotionally intense and rhythmic soul, blues, and gospel influences of African American music culture, with a splash of her parents’ 70s folk-pop vinyl collection thrown in for good measure, this combination of powerful vocals, vintage organ, and old school percussion cannot fail to get your feet tapping along in no time at all. Wrapped not-so-delicately in this lively beat, however, are lyrics that offer a long list of contrasts between first world ideas of what everybody matters looks like (life support, cheap imported goods, rich people), versus what the rest of the world experiences (starvation, slave labor, media bias). As a resident of Edmonton’s McCauley district, an area stigmatized by homelessness, poverty, and addiction, AV’s front seat observations of how her community is treated very quickly formed the narrative for this single. “By the end of the song, the lyrics admit that even those in first world countries feel the anxiety of this need to get ahead,” AV shares. “[Is] it really possible to truly value human rights AND believe in the unquestioned, unchecked, unlimited greed of insatiable materialism?”